The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - 7
State water management bill faces tough fight in Senate
Continued from page 3
Clogged up alternatives
An alternative to the proposed House
amendment, the Water Legacy Act - a pack-
age of bills proposed by Gov. Jennifer Gran-
holm and ushered into Legislature piecemeal
by Kolb and Sen. Liz Brater (D-Ann Arbor)
- offers a more detailed plan to monitor the
use of Michigan's groundwater and with-
drawals from the Lakes.
Lipsey said the House has chosen to large-
ly ignore the act and that representatives
should have focused on it instead of passing
the useless bill.
The Legacy Act has stalled in the state
Legislature in large part because many mem-
bers of the House say they will wait for the
results of research that is currently in work
before supporting it.
The research, which the state funds,
will produce findings on the availability of
groundwater in the state. The committee
conducting the research could not be reached
for comment, but most representatives said
the results will be made public within one to
Some sources have expressed concern
that two years is too long to wait to begin
hearings on the Water Legacy Act, while
others said it would be inappropriate to go
further without seeing the results of the
"The Water Legacy Act is premature. Why
regulate before seeing the findings?" said
Mike Johnston, director of regulatory affairs
for the Michigan Manufacturers Association.
"The state is spending about $1.5 million on
a ground water advisory committee to help
determine the availability of ground water in
Johnston, who opposes the Water Legacy
Act, represents a number of opponents to
restrictions on withdrawals from the ground
and surface water in Michigan's Great Lakes
basins. He said creating strict regulations on
water diversions inside Michigan would be a
blow to the state's economy.
"It's more expensive now than ever to do
business in Michigan. So if you're going to
add on regulations ... it's going to cause less
job growth," he said.
Like the bill in the House, the Water Leg-
acy Act would only be pertinent to the state
and doesn't seek to update the 1986 proposal,
in which each of the Great Lakes governors
holds veto power on any other region's plans
Measuring the costs and benefits
But those who defend the Water Legacy
Act said it would be effective because it
complements suggested revisions to the
The revisions, which would apply a com-
mon standard for water management among
the Great Lakes regions, are organized
under the title of Annex 2001 Implementing
The 2001 charter has been endorsed, for
the most part, by environmental groups, but
still receives strong criticism.
Among these critics is state Attorney Gen-
eral Mike Cox, who released a statement after
the charter was announced three months ago,
saying that it would actually weaken Michi-
gan's control over withdrawals.
Those who side with Cox have said the
charter wrongly allows three states to veto
any other state's Great Lakes withdrawal
plan. Johnston said this would harm the state
because Michigan, as the only state com-
pletely surrounded by the Lakes, depends
on that water more than any of the other
states that are part of the agreement.
"Michigan will pay a disproportionate
share because we only use Great Lakes water.
That puts us at a competitive disadvantage,"
Johnston said. "Our competitor states have
an economic interest in saying 'no' to our
For example, if Michigan is interested in
building a new power plant within the next
few years, under the Annex, three states
could vote to stop construction and prevent
the growth of jobs and manufacturing in
the state, Johnston said.
He added that losses in Michigan manu-
facturing could benefit manufacturing in
However, Peter Weisc, a consultant to the
governors on the Annex, said the criteria the
2001 charter lays out would limit politically
motivated vetoes on withdrawals.
"Instead of stopping diversions based on,
'I don't politically want this withdrawal,'
it'll be based on the (negative environmental
impacts) that the withdrawal would have on
the Great Lakes," Weisc said.
At hearings held over the summer and
fall to gauge public opinion of the Annex,
industrial and agricultural groups com-
plained that the withdrawals would lead to
a "jobs diversion" in Michigan by making
it more costly for companies to use water
from the Great Lakes.
"Industrial groups say it'll be a new per-
mit and it'll be costly. That's the industrial
side ... always concerned that there will be
a cost involved," Weisc said. "If we get our
act together (and enact regulations) it'll be
a good thing for both the industry and the
Ship demand becoming
burden for Coast Guard
WASHINGTON (AP) - Increased demands and a dete-
riorating fleet of ships will make it difficult for the Coast
Guard to do its job in the coming years, according to a study
released yesterday by the Homeland Security Department.
The report, compiled by the department's Inspector Gen-
eral, concluded that the Coast Guard must quickly update
its budget requirements in order to get the funding needed
for fleet and personnel improvements.
Adding to the workload are new international port security
standards that took effect July 1, requiring the Coast Guard to
board and inspect more vessels entering U.S. ports.
That additional work, said the inspector general, requires
experienced service members, "presenting a major chal-
lenge for the Coast Guard, which has in recent years suffered
from declining experience levels among its personnel."
The inspector general said as the increased workload
continues, it will "wear down Coast Guard assets faster
than previously planned." As a result, the report said, the
fleet will become less efficient, which will be more appar-
ent whenever the nation's threat level is elevated.
The Coast Guard has said it needs 600 more active duty
and civilian personnel, at a cost of about $100 million, to
perform the increased inspections. Coast Guard Comman-
dant Thomas Collins has said it will take up to $17 billion
over 20 years to repair and replace the fleet's aging helicop-
ters and vessels.
The inspector general said the service has failed to give
Homeland Security officials updated funding requirements
requested last May for the 2006 budget and beyond. Once
the request is in, the inspector general said Homeland Secu-
rity officials - who oversee the Coast Guard - should
quickly revise the agency's budget.
Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Commander Jeff Carter said
yesterday the 20-year replacement timeline may be shortened.
"We are accomplishing our mission, but it's coming at
a cost," said Carter. "Our aircraft and our boats and our
cutters are all old assets as it is, and we're putting more on
them than we envisioned before."
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